Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Old Man and the Sea Essay Comment Instructions

I would like your Old Man and the Sea essay comments to answer the following four questions. Write three to four sentences for each question.

I - What is this essay's thesis? Is it clear and concise? Is it focused? Does it engage you? Why or why not?

II - Of all the examples and quotations contained in this essay, which is the strongest? Why? What made it stand out above the others?

III - What is one thing this essay does well? It could be its organization, word choice, writing style, choice of quotations, introduction, conclusion, etc. In addition to mentioning what the author does well, copy and paste an example of what you thought was particularly effective. Be sure to put the example in quotations.

IV - What is one piece of advice that the author might consider the next time he or she is asked to write a similar type of analytical essay?

Your comments should appear below the story you are responding to. When asked to choose an identity, click "Name/URL," then write your first name and last initial in the name field. Leave the URL space blank. Comments not posted according to these instructions will be deleted.

I would like you to respond to a minimum of two essays per class. The essays will be up by the end of school on Monday, March 24th. Please bring a printed copy of your comments to class on Tuesday, March 25th, as I will check them then. Your classmates and I thank you for your valuable feedback.
Six comments = a "check"
Nine comments = a "check plus"

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Captain B-G

This post is a republished blog comment I made on Dan73s's Weblog on the topic of a teacher's role in the classroom. Should we be Authorities? Coaches? Guides? Something else?


How does one find that balance between Teacher-As-Authority and Teacher-As-Guide? Some of best lessons occur when students actively take a role in what they are learning. I've found that the key is providing enough scaffolding and detail in my assignments so they know the parameters. Establishing what the playing field looks like is key. You explain the rules, then let them play and explore.

It's perhaps after the "game" when I revert to the TAA to share my perceptions of what occurred and how they might have "played" better. (While they're playing the game I might act more like a referee, ensuring they follow the rules.)

In my classes I've really tried to empower students by granting them access to the materials that help make me the authority. For example, when it's time to define new vocabulary words, literary terms, or roots, the students are often the ones who read the definitions or look them up in the dictionary. I even have students create quizzes and generate the questions that will fuel class discussions.

There's a constant struggle at finding a balance between empowering students (which takes time) and running the show myself. The more I can successfully delegate, the more ownership students have in what we're doing. I do, of course, still demonstrate my authority and knowledge when their understandings go astray or prove too shallow. I'll step in when there's confusion on how to interpret or decipher something. At times I'll overrule or disagree, but students are generally accepting when I do.

I've made it clear to students that I'm captain of the ship, but that the success of our voyage depends on how well they do their part. Some of the best trips occur when I give students the wheel and they take our vessel to places I might not have envisioned. And when we do stray off course, enough of the students are willing to row when I re-assume command at the helm.

The quicker students grasp concepts and ideas, the faster we can sail through the curriculum. When problems occur, we can throw out the anchor and better explore the water before resuming our voyage. By keeping a captain's log of our adventure, I'm able to see how we've reached our respective ports-of-call, and how the voyage might be smoother the second time around.

Meme: Passion Quilt

Fellow edublogger Ms. Ward tagged me with this meme (like Ms. Ward, this was my first too). The meme's task was to "find or design a graphic that depicts the one idea you hope your students leave your classroom with."

I chose the above image of Bruce Lee. While I certainly agree with the quote from the picture, my favorite Bruce Lee quote is "no way as way, no limitation as limitation." Check out this unedited "lost interview"of Bruce Lee from 1971, where he speaks about his life and martial arts philosophy.

"No way as way, no limitation as limitation" relates directly to the way I view writing instruction. Each of us has our own way of conceptualizing ideas and transmitting them to the written word. I think the more in-touch we become with the way we think and organize and access ideas, the closer we become to closing the gap between thought and expression. As Velvet Underground singer Lou Reed once said, "between thought and expression, there lies a lifetime."

At the beginning of the year, I tell my students one of our goals will be to narrow that gap, and that our methods will be largely subjective.


In an effort to keep this meme going, I am going to "tag" five other bloggers I enjoy reading:

1) Bruce Schauble at Throughlines
2) Mr. McNamar at The Daily Grind
3) Seth at Teacher in Disguise
4) Brad at The Lamppost Blog
5) Dana Huff at

  • Post a picture or create your own image that captures what YOU are most passionate for students to learn about

  • Give your picture a short title

  • Title your blog post “Meme: Passion Quilt”

  • Link back to this blog entry

  • Include links to 5 people in your professional learning network